Chinstraps and Mouthpieces: Heart-stopping championships make tourney a big success
Two tournaments, five days, 24 games.
Oh yeah, that's a party.
Saturday's Immaculata-Atchison championship game put the finishing touches on the 46th annual Tonganoxie Invitational boys tournament.
And the girls tourney, in just its second year, has added a welcome component to the boys games.
Although the boys and girls tournaments only have coexisted for the past couple years, it's hard to think what is was like during the previous 44 years.
Remember when there were just eight boys teams involved in the weeklong event?
Man, after being a part of the tournaments the last two years, only one word comes to mind to describe the previous years.
I certainly mean no disrespect to the tradition that's been built the past four decades.
As a Tonganoxie High instructor who has attended some tournaments through the years told me, crowds at Saturday's championship games really couldn't hold a candle to some of the crowds of yesteryear.
But on Saturday, it was hard to argue a better night.
That's because not one, but two championship games weren't decided until the final possession of each game.
"It's the best one since I've been here," THS athletics director Brandon Parker said about the tournament.
Parker has been involved with the tournament the last four years -- the past three as the athletics director.
The tournament was a showcase of some top teams in the area.
Don't be surprised if the teams in the two championship games also appear in state brackets in May. Look for Tonganoxie in the Class 4A girls bracket, Silver Lake in the 3A girls bracket, Atchison in the 4A boys bracket and Immaculata in the 2A boys bracket. And the Jeff West boys and girls teams, which played in the third-place games, might just make a run at state.
Most teams at this year's tournaments are in the first year of a two-year contract, so the same quality field should be back next year.
Feedback that Parker has received indicates those teams likely will be back again and again.
"We did get a lot of compliments about the tournament," Parker said. "That means people want to come back.
"Coaches talked about how much competition they got, so that's good."
Not all games at this year's tournament were barn-burners. A few games were decided by 20, 30 or even 40 points, as sometimes happens in tournaments.
Seeing a few of those contests was well worth it when we arrived at Saturday's games.
And in the process, fans saw a few new faces. Atchison, Silver Lake, Jeff West, Eudora, Metro and Pleasant Ridge usually aren't on Tonganoxie's schedule -- unless they meet in the tournament.
The Tonganoxie Invitational wasn't the only tournament to take place last week. The McLouth Invitational included some exciting match-ups as underdog Perry-Lecompton claimed the tournament title.
Heck, the Topeka Invitational might have taken the cake. Lawrence High and Wichita East joined powerhouses Highland Park and Lawrence-Free State as big names at that tournament.
There also was the Dodge City Tournament of Champions, which is the only tourney in the state that is older than the Tonganoxie Invitational.
But alas, those tournaments don't have a boys and girls tournament happening at the same time.
And that's what makes the Tonganoxie Invitational even better than before.